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Which Mosquito-Borne Diseases Are Emerging In Urban And Suburban Areas In Arizona?

Mosquitoes have not always been a major public health threat in Arizona, but now that the West Nile virus has become permanently established in the southern half of the state, it has become more important than ever for residents to apply mosquito repellent and to stay aware of mosquito-borne disease trends around the state. This year has seen an unprecedented number of West Nile Virus cases in Arizona, most of which have occured in Maricopa County. As of October 18th, the number of confirmed and suspected cases of West Nile virus in Arizona is 383, and this figure only includes 2019 cases. Of these cases, 17 have resulted in death. Due to the sudden appearance of West Nile cases in Arizona, many residents are concerned that additional mosquito-borne diseases may become common in the state in coming years. Unfortunately, many of the mosquito species that inhabit urban areas of Arizona are capable of carrying multiple diseases that have not been known to infect humans in the state.

Several mosquito species, both urban and rural, carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Culex tarsalis and Culex quinquefasciatus are two urban mosquito species that transmit the majority of West Nile infections in Arizona, but Culex tarsalis is significant for transmitting a number of different diseases to humans in various parts of the world. In Arizona, this species can transmit a number of encephalitic diseases to humans, and they transmit both St. Louis encephalitis and western equine encephalitis sporadically in Arizona, but the latter disease is more common in horses and livestock. Aedes aegypti is another mosquito species of concern in Arizona, as this species spreads the Zika virus as well as dengue fever. This species has transmitted both of these viruses along the Gulf Coast in recent years, but neither disease is endemic to Arizona. However, experts believe that this is likely to change in the coming years due to the abundance of A. aegypti throughout the state, and many researchers believe that the establishment of dengue fever in the state may be unavoidable in the future.

Do you think that the Zika virus and/or dengue fever will become common in Arizona before 2030?

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